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In Asia Protests, Condemnation Follow Israeli Raid on Gaza Flotilla


News of Israel's raid on a flotilla of pro-Palestinian activists, that left at least nine people dead, has sparked protests and condemnation in Asia. In Muslim-majority countries like Indonesia, protesters called on U.S. President Obama to get tough with Israel.

In central Jakarta, hundreds of Indonesian students protested what they are calling an act of Israeli aggression. On Monday Israeli military commandos raided six ships that were carrying 700 activists and 10,000 tons of aid to the Palestinian city of Gaza, which is under an Israeli blockade.

Several passengers were killed in the raid and scores of activists and soldiers were injured or arrested.

University student Sahid Sundana says Israel's military action is the same as an act of terrorism. He says if it were an American or Israeli ship and Muslims shot people on them, all the world would call them Muslim terrorists.

The United Nations Security Council has condemned Israel's actions. Similar demonstrations have been held in cities around the world.

In Southeast Asia, protests were held in Indonesia and Malaysia, two of the Muslim majority countries in the region.

China's Foreign Ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu on Tuesday condemned the Israeli raid. He says China condemns the act and urges the Israelis to implement relevant U.N. Security Council resolutions and improve the humanitarian situation in Gaza.

China's strong stand against Israel contrasts with its refusal thus far to condemn North Korea for sinking a South Korean warship.

In Jakarta, Sundana, like many students at the rally calls on President Obama to take action against Israel.

He says President Obama has to prevent Israel from doing this kind of thing, and not to protect or cover up for Israel.

President Obama has expressed deep regret at the loss life in the raid and said it was important to learn all the circumstances surrounding the event. Many in the Muslim world see this response as too restrained and reinforcing the view that America's foreign policy is biased toward Israel.

Anis Baswedan is a political analyst and president of Paramadina University in Jakarta. He says if President Obama wants to be seen as an independent mediator in the Middle East peace process, he must speak out against Israel's actions.

"This is again an opportunity to show the world and also the Muslim world that Obama is able to capitalize the resources he has to actually bring peace to the Middle East, and being more tough on issues that needs to be tough and I think this is a time for Obama to fulfill the expectations of the world," he said.

By being tough on Israel, Baswedan says Obama will gain credibility to better deal with both sides in future Middle East peace negotiations.

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